Monday, December 22, 2008

The Denver Club and Glenarm Place

The picture above illustrates the continuing changes that have befallen downtown Denver, both good and bad. It is difficult to believe but this is the SW corner of 17th and Glenarm, circa 1889. We know that change is constant but sometimes it is heartbreaking to see all that Denver has lost over the years with the onslaught of new development and parking lots. The two buildings shown include the First Congregational Church of Denver (1880) and the Denver Club Building (1889).

First Congregational had relocated to the "suburbs", leaving its home of many years near 15th and Curtis and building a new edifice on Glenarm Place for $41,000 in 1880. It was alone on a block that was otherwise filled with homes of everyday Denverites.

This picture, circa 1888, shows the Denver Club Building under construction. Taken from the Arapahoe County Courthouse (1883), notice the numerous single family homes that populate Glenarm Place, 16th Street and adjacent areas.

This picture, circa 1889, shows the newly completed Denver Club and a very smoggy city! Take note of the new Denver High School (1881) on the far right at 19th and Stout.

By 1891, the two buildings had a new neighbor on Glenarm Place. The destruction of the houses of the area continued as the Kittredge Building (1891) joined the neighborhood.

This picture shows the Kittredge Building under construction. We are lucky to still have this lovely building grace the corner of 16th and Glenarm. The other two buildings were not so lucky. Click here to see a current picture of the block taken from 16th Street. Although we certainly appreciate and love the Paramount Theater, it was built on First Congregational's site in 1930. The old Denver Club Building suffered a different fate. In 1954, it was replaced by the new Denver Club Building--a skyscraper. Along with the Mile High Building, it was one of the first modernist buildings constucted in Denver and therefore today, is in and of itself a Denver landmark. Modern sentiment however laments the loss of yet another Victorian building in the old Denver Club. Will the "new" Denver Club suffer the same fate? Unlikely, as it is part of downtown Denver's historic buildings district.

For additional information on Block 174, home of the Denver Club Building, click here to be taken to

All black and white historic photos are from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Daniels and Fisher Tower

We are just a few years away from the centennial of one of Denver's most iconic buildings. The Daniels and Fisher Tower at 16th and Arapahoe Streets opened to the public in early 1912 but began construction in 1910. Modeled after the Campanile in Venice, Italy, the building was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River upon completion. It was designed by the architecture firm of Sterner and Williamson. The hour hand is eight feet long and the minute hand is 6 feet long--designed by the Seth Thomas Clock Company. Its construction marked a new era not only in Denver's retail scene but in its architecture. Daniels and Fisher was the department store of choice in Denver until it merged with the May Company in 1957. The building was soon abandoned for new digs in the newly created May D&F Department Store located at Zeckendorf Plaza at 16th and Court Place.

The Daniels and Fisher Department Store had its roots in the very beginnings of Denver; the tower epitomizes the quick growth of Denver, having been constructed just shortly after the city celebrated its 50th birthday. William B. Daniels started his store in 1864 on Larimer Street. He was later joined by William Fisher in 1872 to form Daniels and Fisher. Daniels son, William Cooke Daniels, took over the helm in 1891.

The tower's beauty was under-appreciated as the decade of the 1960's began and with the Skyline Urban Renewal Project in full swing, the old department store's days were numbered. Miraculously, the tower was saved but the rest of the department store was gone by 1971. The red brick scar on one side of the tower shows where it used to be attached to the rest of the department store. The year 1971 was a big year in preservation awareness in Denver as the battle lines were drawn. Some successes included the continued preservation of Larimer Square and saving the Molly Brown House. But other battles were lost, including the loss of the Moffat Mansion at the northeast corner of 8th and Grant.

The comic below shows the complacency of most of Denver during this time and how close we came to losing the D & F Tower as well. Even though this comic was drawn in 1965, it was not enough to provoke the city into changing course on preservation. We might have been able to have had a few more preservation success stories such as saving the Tabor Grand Opera House, knocked down in 1965, but the planets did not align. Perhaps if the successful State Historic Fund had been present in those years, more money would have been available to shore up and preserve other structures long forgotten and since demolished but certainly worthy of being left for posterity!

The top photo is from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection. The editorial cartoon was created by Pat Oliphant of the Denver Post.

Post Script: For regular readers, I apologize for delays in posting. If I had eight hands, it would be better! However, the past months have been extremely busy and therefore, successful, in the walking and bus tour business, especially as related to Haunted Denver!!!

Monday, September 1, 2008

City Park Fountain

Now that the DNC is over, we can thankfully look back on a very successful and historic convention for Denver. The city looked wonderful and conventioneers were treated to Denver at its best. While museums and other cultural attractions (including my work place) were not as busy as was projected, hopefully all visitors left Denver feeling they had come to a special place. For those who were able to venture out to City Park, a truly historic treat awaited them. Refurbished just in time for the 2008 Democratic Convention was the City Park Fountain. If you were unaware of there being a fountain at City Park, you're not alone. It has been out of commission for years. But it was originally put in place for the 1908 Democratic Convention. Read more about its rebirth here via the Denver Post.

City Park continues to bring joy to Denverites of all ages. Luckily, the city was able to eradicate the ugly green sludge that was plaguing Ferril Lake this summer. In the middle of this lake, named for Thomas Hornsby Ferril (Colorado's poet laureate and native Denverite who passed away in 1988), sits the fountain. The City Park Pavilion provides a dramatic backdrop as does the Denver skyline beyond.

While I've been busy with the convention, frequent blog visitor Bruce Quackenbush kindly provided historic post card images of the original fountain (below) as well as current photos from its recent re-unveiling, as seen above. I usually focus on changes to downtown Denver's built environment. However, I am not opposed to covering other areas of the city. And the historic fountain is certainly pertinent to this blog. If you haven't been out to see it yet, get there soon. It goes dark at the end of September. It will return to delight City Park visitors next May 2009.

This view shows the old portion of the then Colorado Museum of Natural History on the upper left side. The word Colorado was replaced by Denver about 1948. Today, after many additions, it is known as the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

As always, I appreciate all of the kind comments and blog suggestions that I receive. Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Larimer Square

Larimer Street circa 1960

Larimer Street, circa 2008
(photo courtesy Denver History Tours, 2008)

It was called the Skyline Urban Renewal Project. What most politicians and elected officials celebrated as "progress as promised" back in the 1960s, was viewed with skepticism by regular Denverites. The successful proposal flattened most of Denver's historic core for new structures, using Federal dollars, and therefore bypassing any need for the use of local tax money. The result was a shiny new downtown we enjoy today. But much was lost. The heartache historians feel is somewhat tempered by what we managed to save. The fight to save even one block was a monumental task which required vision and foresight. Such vision was necessary in order to see past the blighted building exteriors and see a vibrant urban setting consisting of some of the city's earliest structures (see comparisons above between 1960 and 2008). What we know today as Larimer Square was the result of one woman's tenacity and therefore, we thank Dana Crawford for her efforts. Still, if only we could have saved more. We only have pictures to remind us of our past, but if economics and politics had been different back in the 1960s and 1970s, our downtown would look much different today. Larimer Square was a big gamble and really marked an awakening in Denver for historic preservation. The area was declared Colorado's first historic district back in 1971. While we celebrate Larimer Square, few realize the tremendous built environment that was lost, not only on Larimer Street, but throughout downtown. It's no coincidence that one can find old buildings north of 20th Street, similar to those in the 1400 block of Larimer. The urban renewal line stretched up to that street. It's taken 40 years, but today, even those buildings north or 20th are starting to be renovated. Let's take a look back at a few pictures of the old "Larimer Square", to understand the difficult proposition faced at that time of saving even one block of this 'derelict' street.

This picture, circa 1960, shows that Larimer Street was suffereing the effects of urban neglect as those who could continued to depopulate downtown. Larimer was by this time, a collection of "eclecticism", or as others saw it, a kind of skid row, full of bars, porno shops, vice, drugs, pawn shops, and second or third tier retail. When urban renewal tried to erase this urban neighborhood, much of this "vice" moved to East Colfax Avenue.

Most of the structures on Larimer date from the 1880s and 1890s, other than the modern structures which have filled in the gaps. Can you find the modern buildings today? Two of the most interesting buildings on the street are the stunning Second Empire style Lincoln Hall, and the oldest structure on the street, the 1873 Gallup-Stanbury Building. Both are seen below:

A Victorian style of archicture, known as Second Empire, is exhibited at Lincoln Hall. This style, once more prevalent downtown, is now quite rare in Denver. (photo courtesy Denver History Tours, 2008)

Who knew that The Market is housed in the oldest structure in Larimer Square? (photo courtesy Denver History Tours, 2008)

The splendid 1882 Granite Building, also known as the Clayton Building for its builders. This picture is circa 1950. This building once housed the McNamara Drygoods Company, the predecessor to the Denver Drygoods Company.

This shows the same structure circa 1970. Notice the occupant of the lowest level. The Flick is assumed to be an adult movie house. This building sits on the site of William Larimer's first cabin in Denver. He founded the city on November 22, 1858. (Photo Credit: Brettell, Richard R. Historic Denver: 1858-1893, Denver, p. 204.)

A True Survivor: The Granite Building, circa 2008
(photo courtesy Denver History Tours, 2008)

This photo, circa 1960, is quite a jewel. It shows the 1600 Block of Larimer. To see the same block today, click here. Imagine if all of Larimer Street had been preserved! This would be some of the hottest property downtown today. One piece from this photo survives however. Take a look at the Manhattan Restaurant at 1633 Larimer. In front of it is a cherub statue, which welcomes visitors to Denver. For reasons unknown, this little remnant was preserved.

Located in the Courtyard of the Bear and the Bull in the rear of the Kettle Arcade on Larimer Square, we can revel in one piece of Denver's past, still welcoming all to the city. That smiling gentleman is the owner of Denver History Tours--Kevin Pharris!
(photo courtesy of Denver History Tours, 2008)

To learn more about the history of the individual buildings on Larimer Square, click here.

I generally concentrate on one block or the side of one block to coordinate best with However, for the purposes of Larimer Square's history, this current blog used the east side of Block 45 and the west side of Block 70. Click to learn more about the current state of these blocks at

Unless stated otherwise, all historic photos are from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection.

UPDATE: Many of you have written in concerning the The Flick movie theater located in Granite Building during the 1960s. I had assumed it might be an adult movie house because the picture I have appears to show drawings of scantily clad women in its windows. However, the consensus seems to be that The Flick was an artsy type movie house. It sounds like it was the Mayan Theater of the day. Therefore, we will err on the side of those who were actually there at The Flick! However, newspaper ads from this era do indeed show that there were numerous adult movie houses not only in the areas of lower downtown but upper downtown as well.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Adams Hotel

With the recent departure of the Adams Mark name from Denver, I began to think of all of the hotels that have been in Denver over the past 150 years. The longest lived are the Oxford (1891) and the Brown (1892). Others have been long gone, their buildings demolished to make way for parking lots such as the Cosmopolitan suffered in 1984 (a planned high rise never got off the ground!) Or, they were victims of urban decay such as the Inter-Ocean, lost circa 1970. Or...yet again...they were unceremoniously demolished for no good reason that I can find, such as the Windsor, lost in 1959.

Less grand, but no less part of downtown, was the Adams Hotel which once stood at the northeast corner of 18th and Welton. It was demolished around 1969 to make way for a bank drive through area and parking lot. It today exists as an abandoned bank drive through site.

The Adams Hotel opened for business in 1902. It was designed by the Baerresen Brothers Architects. It was noted for the large copper dome atop the structure. In addition, information included with this picture states that when it opened, there were innovations such as the use of a push button elevator along with there being telephones in every room. Note the bicycles in the picture above.

circa 1910

circa 1920

The two pictures above show the Adams Hotel and the Empire Hotel. The Empire stood at 18th and Glenarm. Most interstingly however, we can see a small building in between the two. This space also shows up in the picture at the top of this blog. We see a small Second Empire style home occupying the spot in 1902. Later, we see a store front on the site above. talked about this very block in July of 2007. In that blog, we learn that Shelby's Bar and Grill is housed in that same building we see in the picture. Amazingly, it bills itself as one of the oldest buildings in downtown Denver. Without more research, it's hard to say if the current Shelby's is housed in a converted Second Empire home or if that house was demolished in 1907 to make way for the current building. Either way, Shelby's currently sits alone in a sea of parking and an abandoned bank drive through!

What did we lose with the closure and demolition of the Adams Hotel in 1969? Many would argue that its removal helped add new vitality to downtown Denver as more people were able to come into the city and find a place to park or bank conveniently. But the economics of parking aside, as with so much of our lost downtown history, the removal of the Adams Hotel also removed any context we had of a once vibrant area of our city. The only reminder seems strangely out of place--Shelby's Bar and Grill at 519 18th Street.

Not even this 1953 remodel of the interior could save the Adams from its fate. The hotel interior at some point was designed by Gilbert Jaka. He was influential during the early 1930s designing the stunning Art Deco Cruise Room at the Oxford Hotel, along with some other Art Deco style homes in Park Hill. Without knowing more about Mr. Jaka, it is hard to know if the above decoration represents his work, although it is unlikely since it is definitely not Art Deco. No other interior pictures of the Adams Hotel have been located. If there were other Art Deco finishes inside, its demolition is an even greater loss for our city.

Just so we don't get too down on ourselves about changes to the city over the last 150 years, this picture illustrates that without change, our city would not be what it is today. This is Denver, circa 1880. In this picture, the direction of north is on the right. In the middle left, we see the intersection of 18th Avenue and Broadway. The Trinity Methodist Church would be constructed here in 1888. At the left center, we see a triangular piece of land that would become the Brown Palace Hotel in 1892. Across the street from that land, we see the Brinker Institute, that thankfully, we can still see today!! It is known as the Navarre Building. And in the center right of the picture, we see land that by 1902 would become the Adams Hotel. All of those homes are gone today. The closest examples are at 21st and Glenarm. See my last blog to learn about that!

At least we have pictures.....

For additional information on Block 176, home of Shelby's, click here to be taken to

All black and white historic photos are from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Lost Residences of Downtown Denver

Recently I've been researching aspects of Denver's lost residential neighborhoods of yesteryear. It may surprise most of you to know that downtown Denver and its adjacent neighborhoods were once filled with lovely residences and some not so lovely residences--housing of all types. Many of the parking lots we see in and around downtown today were once occupied by homes. Some of these houses were later supplanted by businesses. The last home standing in central downtown is the Curry-Chucovich-Gerash House at 1439 Court Place on Block 207.

To get a sense of what this neighborhood near the Arapahoe County Courthouse once looked like, here is a picture circa 1890 to get us in the right frame of mind:

This area, between Tremont and Glenarm Places, features a now rare Second Empire designed home. That is the house with the mansard style roof. Hidden in the trees to the right is the Curry-Chucovich-Gerash House, circa 1888 with the Arapahoe County Courthouse dominating the skyline.

Just down the street at 1308 Glenarm stood the Amos Steck House:

Mr. Steck was on the first Denver School Board. He gave land to the East Denver School District that was eventually used to build the first permanent school building in Denver, the Arapahoe School.

Aside from Curtis Park, which remains remarkably intact north of 23rd Street, there isn't much residential remaining south of that line, except for the random house here and there in the Arapahoe Square area. One nearly intact block remains however. Staving off demolition during the mid-1970s when its neighborhing blocks were bull-d0zed to make way for the 1976 Winter Olympics Housing, this block formed the Clement's Historic District. Compare this link of the current street with what we can see of some of the 2100 block over a century ago:

The houses in the far right side of this picture (circa 1900) remain intact today as part of the Clement's Historic District.

The neighborhoods to the south of downtown didn't fair much better. The residences of today's Golden Triangle or Civic Center neighborhood was even more obliterated during the 20th century, first to make way for Civic Center Park, and secondly to make way for libraries, art museums, parking lots and associated businesses. The neighborhood lost so much population that by 1973, the Denver Public Schools closed down the area school: Evans Elementary. That building still stands today but is not in use. Recently, an old picture made its way to the Byers-Evans House Museum (circa 1883). This picture was interesting because it showed people smiling in front of homes that were long ago demolished to make way for the Denver Art Museum's North Building (circa 1971 by Gio Ponti). The only hold-outs from that construction project were the Evans sisters, granddaughters of Colorado's second territorial governor, John Evans. They stayed put and today, their house is a museum (and my workplace). The picture of their neighbor's house to the north at 1316 Bannock is quite a treasure to see today:

Family and friends at 1316 Bannock in 1910. The use of the rusticated sandstone and granite on the home is a hallmark of architect William Lang, notable for his many beautiful houses in Denver, including the Molly Brown House and the Castle Marne. These large homes, including the large Queen Anne on the left, complimented the Italianate style Byers-Evans House at 1310 Bannock.

All black and white historic photos are from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection except for the picture of 1316 Bannock.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Masonic Building and Welton Street

Ah, the Masonic Building (1889). This downtown institution almost was lost to us back in 1985 due to fire. Without the intervention of preservationists and other interested parties, the Kittredge Building would be alone. The fire damage was significant which resulted in only the facade being salvaged, but we'll take it! This building, designed by Frank Edbrooke, is one of a few of his many notable projects still left standing downtown after so long. Others include the Brown Palace and the Oxford Hotel.

In the distance in this picture, one can also see the Kenmark Hotel at the corner of 17th and Welton, and beyond that, the current Grand Hyatt at 18th and Welton. The Kenmark, known as Hotel Kaiserhof until WWI, was recently demolished in 1995. "They" said it couldn't be saved, that it had to go. And today, we have a "nice" vacant lot/parking lot on that site.

But what about the other lesser known buildings along Welton Street "behind" the Masonic Building. I spend my days and nights doing a lot of research for many different projects--that's why I can't post here everyday--but it does point to the problems inherent with historic building research. One wants to ensure accuracy and sometimes that means digging more deeply than just the online photo archive at the Denver Public Library. And sometimes, the evidence is not readily available, especially for less flashy buildings that sometimes faced the city's interior blocks. Such is the case with the even addresses found along the 1600 block of Welton.

While doing other research, I stumbled upon the picture below:

The dotted line in this picture is hovering over the Mack Building which stands along Welton next to the Masonic Building. This photo is circa 1953. The information on the back of this photo indicates that the Mack Building had been on the site since 1883. It was to be torn down and to make way for a seven story office building. This is where more research would be needed! The Denver Public Library's online photo archive is pretty scant on later 20th century architecture. The building currently on the site and adjacent sites at approximately 1630 Welton was built in 1982. You can see it at the top picture on this blog. It currently houses offices and other businesses such as the Colorado Athletic Club. Interestingly, the building is owned by one group called IEC Denver, but the land on which it sits is still owned by the Mack Family (the Louis Mack and Barbara Mack McKay Trust). This picture also gives a better view of the Kenmark Hotel and the Patterson Building (also no longer standing) at the corner of 17th and Welton.

Another view of this block, circa 1920s, is below:

And what of the other smaller buildings on this block. Well, one of the more prominent was the Columbia Savings and Loan Association Building at 1638 Welton, designed by Baerresen Brothers architects. It received a facade redo sometime after WWII and became Silver State Bank. It can be seen in the Mack Building picture further above, just to the left of the said building. This picture below is circa 1900.

The building below is circa 1897. It appears to have still been standing along with the Columbia/Silver State Building and Kenmark Buildings in the top photo from 1985. Its address is given as 1630 Welton however, so it may have been demolished when the Mack Building came down. Without more research, we might also assume that when the Kenmark came down, these two buildings came down with it. This picture is described as being a rowhouse. It states that it also contained the Formosa Tea Company and that it sold other Japanese goods.

It is always interesting to see what has come before. At least photography allows us this window into the past when the buildings are gone. Long live the Masonic Building! Click here to see the 1600 block of Welton today.

For more information on Block 174, which includes the 1600 block of Welton, check out

In addition, learn more about Downtown Denver's historic buildings and historic district at (included are the Masonic Building and Kittredge Building).

All black and white historic photos are from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Denver's City Auditorium

What at difference a century makes. As Denver prepares to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention this August, it seems fitting to look at the city's preparation for our last and only other political convention: the Democratic National Convention of 1908!

Denver Mayor Robert Speer built a shining new City Auditorium that just happened to be dedicated on the day of his inauguration on June 1, 1908. When the convention opened in Denver in July 1908, William Jennings Bryan was the party's nominee. He later lost to William Howard Taft.

Although 2008's convention will be held in the Pepsi Center, the interior will surely bear some resemblance to the Auditorium's decoration from 1908. Pictures of George Washington, Andrew Jackson and Thomas Jefferson (presumably), dominate the walls. In addition, the rare 46 star flag hangs on the walls and rafters signifying the recent addition of Oklahoma to the union in 1907.

This picture shows the Auditorium rising from the corner of 14th and Champa. The building was constructed in record time, the cornerstone being laid in September 1907. The beautiful buildings to the rear of the Auditorium are unknown to me. What is apparent however is the residential character was forever altered with the construction of this building. The large homes and mansions along 14th Street began their swan song as the street became increasingly commercial in nature after 1910.

The home of Dr. Charles Denison stood at the corner of 14th and Champa, specifically 1402 Champa, opposite the new Auditorium. Many stately homes lined the street including the home of former governor John Evans at 14th and Arapahoe. It was demolished in 1910 to make way for the Denver Tramway Headquarters. That building today is known as the Hotel Teatro. To see what hideous building stands on the Denison grounds today, click here.

Denver, as capital of Colorado, has always been a place of visiation of politicians of all stripes. Here, President Woodrow Wilson and his wife Edith exit City Auditorium in 1919.

While the building still stands today, the decorative domes that dominated each corner were removed in the 1950s. The renovated building is known today as the Quigg Newton Denver Municpal Auditorium. But it more commonly associated with the Ellie Caulkins Opera House which is found within its walls. Here is a picture from DenverInfill showing the renovations taking place when the Ellie was being "installed".

For additional information on Blocks 100-105 that the City Auditorium is a part of, click here.

All black and white historic photos are from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Republic Building

The Republic Building represents another battle lost in preserving Denver's colorful built environment. Economic forces and varied business interests from the late 1970s came together to push for the building's demolition in 1981. The photos above show the Republic Building first in 1927 shortly after its construction from the corner of 16th and Tremont. The second shows it across 16th Street in a reflecting pool at Courthouse Square in 1933 shortly after the Arapahoe County Courthouse was demolished on that same site. The Republic Building housed numerous doctors offices, as well as other businesses, and was a beautiful piece of architecture. While the building was lost, the name remains tied to the site, as it was replaced by Denver's tallest building: the 56-story Republic Plaza.

While many criticize the plain and faceless nature of the current Republic Plaza building, also known as the Republic Tower, it represents well the era in which it was built. The modern style skyscraper, finished in 1984, was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merril. It remains the tallest building not only in Denver and Colorado, but the entire Rocky Mountain Region.

But its predecessor was nonetheless a sight to behold. Designed by preeminent Denver architect G. Meredith Musick, the building contained early Art Deco elements, which Musick later took full throttle, especially with his beautiful design of the Bryant-Webster Public School in northwest Denver. His Republic Building took up a quarter of Block 209, from the alley between Court Place and Tremont Place, along 16th Street. This structure definitely had a special place in the hearts and minds of Denverites. These feelings were not enough to save it, although the preservation battles from the early 1980s were certainly hard-fought and vociferous.

circa 1941

circa 1953, note that Courthouse Square park has become a parking lot.

circa 1925

circa 1926

circa 1927

circa 1927, showing beautiful detail on the Tremont Place entrance

circa 1913, the building on the upper right shows what stood on the site of the Republic Building prior to 1925. Without more research, the deeper history of this building and any predecessors is unknown, although it likely dates from the early 1890s.

For additional information on Block 209, home of the Republic Plaza, click here to be taken to

All black and white historic photos are from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection.